The immediate fate of Wallabies coach Michael Cheika will be decided at Rugby Australia’s board meeting next Monday while former Test hooker Brendan Cannon says the long-term solution to the team’s woes is David Nucifora.
Employed as Ireland’s high performance director, Nucifora has been instrumental to the Grand Slam winners’ climb up the rankings to No.2 to sit among the World Cup favourites alongside New Zealand, who they beat last month.
Cheika will present his case to Rugby Australia (RA) chief executive Raelene Castle and the board while high performance boss Ben Whitaker will also submit a review of the Wallabies’ season.
With nine months until kick-off for the World Cup in Japan, and given RA’s precarious financial situation, it’s unlikely Cheika will be axed.
However, his assistants Simon Raiwalui, Stephen Larkham, Nathan Grey and Mick Byrne are in the firing line.
Cannon said despite their credentials as former Wallabies, Grey and Larkham weren’t immune from criticism with the organisation not wanting to be seen to be sitting on their hands.
“Assistants sadly seem to be the easiest ones to target because they are probably the more affordable expense to get rid of,” Cannon, who played 42 Tests, said.
“Larkham and Grey are two of my former teammates and two outstanding individuals but no one is immune from scrutiny – as good a player as these guys were, they’re all tarred with the same brush.”
Cannon believed RA should immediately bring in an independent selector to help arrest the Wallabies’ slide – after four wins and nine losses in 13 Tests this year.
He said RA should be targeting a return for former Super Rugby-winning Brumbies coach Nucifora, who has been with Ireland since 2014.
Nucifora held a similar position with Australian rugby and tried to introduce a centralised player system to align Super Rugby teams and the Wallabies, but ran into road-blocks before his 2012 departure.
Ireland have developed a streamlined national system under Nucifora with all coaches, players and football-related staff centrally contracted across all the provinces.
All big decisions in player workload, talent pathways and player distribution are overseen with the national team’s interest in mind.
The timing post-World Cup may work in Australia’s favour, with Ireland’s head coach Joe Schmidt, who Nucifora works closely with, already announcing his planned departure after the tournament.
“Rugby Australia should be mortgaging the bank and the house to get David Nucifora back to allow him to implement carte blanch, free rein, a centralised system,” Cannon told AAP.
“He’s spent time overseas and is now looking back at Australia; he’s been a part of the most successful transformation of recent times of a national side.
“Throw the bank at him to get him back.”